by Colin Campbell
Ian Blackford bought his wife a luxury Range Rover earlier in the year, and was pictured beaming at the showroom after the purchase.
How did a self-proclaimed “simple 10-acres crofter” manage to do that?
No, that’s not actually the question.
The question to ask is – why stop at one luxury £70,000 or £80,000 Ranger to enhance the Blackford family travel convenience?
Why not go the whole hog and just buy an entire fleet?
As the money rolls in for the Ross MP and SNP Westminster leader he can afford to live the high life, and then some.
It’s been revealed that for 2018/19 he managed to extract more than a quarter of a million pounds in Westminster expenses.
He claimed a total of £256,000, a rise of £16,000 from the previous year, when he claimed £240,000.
In his Ross, Lochaber and Skye constituency, that £16,000 expenses increase is more than many people earn for a full year’s work.
Yet again, he is one of the top three expenses claimants at Westminster. The other two are also, needless to say, SNP MPs.
A quarter of a million pounds, and that’s without his huge Westminster salary being added on top of that. He’s raking in the kind of money most people dream off.
Not to mention the first class travel and other perks and privileges conferred on him by the Mother of Parliaments.
By Westminster – an institution he professes to be disgusted with and wants to destroy.
That’s the impression you’d get from his weekly performances at PMQ’s, when he tries to give the impression that he wants to tear the whole place down.
But actions speak louder than words. And he sure as hell doesn’t want the lavishly generous expenses system to be torn down.
There’s his public description of himself as “a simple 10-acres Skye crofter”.
But we needn’t waste any time on that.
But you might think – if he really despises Westminster so much – that he might have some hesitation in milking the expenses system for absolutely everything he can get out of it.
That he might be looking over his shoulder and wondering how his enthusiasm for raking in over a quarter of a million would look to his supporters back home. That he might be concerned that some of them would be distinctly unimpressed, angry even. Expenses can be reduced, costs can be cut, claims can be limited. Highland councillors, for example, know this, and are at pains to ensure when the annual figures are released that they’ve been seen to try and curtail their expenses. No-one wants to be in the top three, regardless of the costs they’ve incurred. It just doesn’t look good.
But no such checks and balances apply within the SNP.
Those across Ross-shire and beyond who vote for him aren’t going to rise up in revolt over Blackford and his expenses. He’s SNP. He’s on their side. That means he can get away with anything.
And doesn’t he take full advantage of it.
At PMQs he feigns anger and goes through the usually blustery charade of condemning this and condemning that – with the usual emphasis being on “brutal cuts by Tory toffs hammering the poor”.
In one spectacular stunt he led a walkout of the SNP from the chamber. Inverness MP and Westminster socialite Drew Hendry – who just loves entertaining constituency guests in the lavish surroundings he regards as his “home” – trotted along behind him.
I believe Blackford no more wants independence than he wants to spend hours toiling on his “croft”.
And Hendry no more wants independence than he wants to end up back as a local councillor going round asking people where they’d prefer to locate a new bus stop.
Hendry didn’t mention “indy” in his campaign literature at the last election, not once, in case it might cost him some votes. But a few days later he was basking in the limelight in a television studio arguing the case for “indyref2”. Job done, re-election secured, so he was back to notching up brownie points with “the base”.
Why would SNP MPs at Westminster want to lose a job which guarantees them vast amounts of money, and an extraordinary range of perks and privileges? There are a few, like the ghastly Mhairi Black and the semi-deranged Western Isles MP Angus MacNeill, who are fervent in their desire for independence and would willingly clothe themselves in rags if they could get it, but they are the exceptions.
The rest are extremely comfortable where they are. Raking in huge salaries and hundreds of thousands of pounds in expenses.
And none more so than “the voice of the poor” Ian Blackford, the ultimate SNP toff who could comfortably cover half his 10-acre croft with a fleet of spanking new Range Rovers.